Here is a pair of panoramas that I took in the same place, at the same time of year, same time of day. They were shot at what I call a centifluence, an intersection of imaginary gridlines spaced every hundredth of a degree. It’s 44.50, -103.85, in Lookout Mountain Park in Spearfish, S.D.

25 September 2012, 6:30pm. Click for full-res.

29 September 2014, 6:27pm, fitted to 2012. Click for full-res.

Terrible-looking animated GIF

So another panorama, but this one had some interesting points, the technical one at the end:

Mostly I just like this spot esthetically. It’s a fortunate cent, a lucky penny, since it happens to show all three peaks around town: Lookout Mountain, Spearfish Mountain and Crow Peak. Not a bad city park.

Historically, this pair shows a few changes over two years. The DOT put streetlamps along the highway. Winter Storm Atlas whacked a lot of urban trees. The grass looks taller and the bushes diminished.

Ecologically what I noticed was the erosion. I saw it immediately from my own two feet, in the 18 seconds between the two photos of the whiteboard:


It surprised me to see the erosion I had just caused by taking a couple of steps. And two years later I was again surprised when I stacked the “after” photo onto the “before” one. We imagine our mountains wearing down imperceptibly over centuries, but boy this one isn’t. Rephotography has repeatedly taught me that landscapes we think of as static are really dynamic– that the rocks and trees are all bending and flowing like glaciers or glass. We “rubbersheet” maps and photos to align with the land, but the land is itself a sheet of cold rubber, and it’s running right now. Especially on this scale of ground photos, we’re georeferencing Jell-O to the wall.

Technically, two points on this pair:

(1) I like the lighting. Almost all of my photography is near sunset, not so much for the pretty light but for schedules and sunburn. And when shooting 360 degrees late in the day you can’t avoid the sun, so you need to shoot either when the sun is way up out of the frame, or way down so it doesn’t blind out your photo or even burn out your light meter.

So the timing is touchy, and I’ve been doing the simple trick of mutiple takes. I start early and go round and round until it’s clearly too dark, and then I go home and keep whatever round looks the best. The only problem (besides getting there on time) is blending in the baker’s-dozen shot that has my face and the metadata. It has always been a bit darker than the previous frame– owing to a pause while I write out the whiteboard– but now it can be a lot darker. So I may shoot a thirteenth every time I go around.

(2) The world still quietly cries in the night for a multi-page image standard. Some techies sniff at PDFs, and perhaps for cause, but PDF is still the best option I see for people to actually use. This is a whole topic for another day, but for now I’ll just say this:

Try out this high-res PDF. In many viewing programs you can move orthogonally in four dimensions– i.e. jump back and forth in time without moving in space. You can zoom in to an area you’re interested in, jump to another date (another page), and you’re still looking at the same place. You usually have to set some kind of view mode to single-page, and you usually hold down a key like Shift or Control while pressing the up and down keys. It’s fun.

Comment: robb at zoombackbaby